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Rhiannon James

Senior Content Writer

When Ronald McDonald first appeared on TV screens in 1966, the clown did exactly what McDonalds had hoped he would do: he caught the attention of children.

When Ronald McDonald first appeared on TV screens in 1966, the clown did exactly what McDonalds had hoped he would do: he caught the attention of children. While their mission buzzwords - Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value (QSC&V) – would have been appreciated by adults, they didn’t exactly get kids excited. According to an article entitled 'We Need to Talk About Ronald' by Greg Beato, a McDonalds executive spoke candidly to Time magazine in 1973, recalling: “our move to the suburbs was a conscious effort to go for the family business. That meant going after the kids. We decided to use television, so we created our own character, Ronald McDonald.” The introduction of their mascot demonstrated McDonalds’ desire to be seen as up to date with the youth of sixties’ society.  Ronald insisted that he knew what kids liked; in a very early TV ad he says: “I know we’re going to be friends too because I like to do everything boys and girls like to do” predictably adding “especially when it comes to eating those delicious McDonalds hamburgers!” McDonalds used TV to reach out to kids in more ways than one; they ran adverts for the screen but they also suggested their product would add a new, fun, dimension to the pastime by having Ronald say “Hey, isn’t watching TV fun? Especially when you’ve got delicious McDonalds hamburgers.” The timing of these ads was important too. Greg Beato notes that according to a report in the New York Times in 1967 McDonald’s was the “only business of its kind with network commercials on the Saturday morning kiddie cartoon marathon.” Ronald became a part of the fun, “soar[ing] through the air on a flying hamburger and compet[ing] with a bad guy named Mr. Muscle for a McDonald’s meal.” So the mascot was fun, he was cool, and most of all he loved hamburgers. No wonder he was an instant hit. But if they had today’s technology, the 1966 advert’s “newest, silliest, hamburger-eatingest” clown could have got the kids hooked in so many other ways... With search capabilities, the TV advert could have got kids voting for the clown to win or lose the battles he fought with Mr. Muscle. Searching ‘Ronald to win’ or ‘Ronald to lose’ could have taken them to specific parts of a McDonalds webpage, allowing the company to track the success of their ad campaign, not to mention judge public feeling for the clown! The ad could have given a choice of prizes for the winner to receive; a Big Mac, some fries, an extra thick milkshake; any combination of products they wanted to promote that week. Ronald McDonald himself could have proved his ‘down with the kids’ credentials by making use of the latest technology that kids would be interested in. In the sixties it was TV, but with today’s advances sent back in time, Ronald would have his own Twitter and Facebook accounts where he could Tweet and post about “those delicious McDonalds hamburgers” to his heart’s content. There would still be room to mention TV; a couple of posts a week, possibly including video clips, about the coolest kids shows he’s enjoyed lately would keep his finger on the multimedia pulse, as would a review or two about the fun kids websites he’s visited. By creating a stronger presence for Ronald in other media forms and simultaneously running an SEO campaign on the McDonalds website, the company’s page would gain visibility in results pages and increased traffic levels. The campaign would open up the search criteria so instead of McDonalds just appearing in the results of a keyword search for ‘hamburger’ or ‘fries’ for example, the name ‘Ronald’ would also direct crowds of searchers to the McDonalds page. If Ronald McDonald had his own blog on the McDonalds webpage, which he kept up-to-date with fresh and unique content, Google would recognise the page as highly relevant and authentic, awarding it more authority. This would improve the page’s ranking; good news for McDonalds who would naturally want their web pages to come top in a keyword or phrase search. These advances could have seen Ronald become a followed, supported and even idolised figure in the sixties; a Facebook friend who provides the daily temptation of a Big Mac and fries to kids everywhere. If you were planning a campaign for the launch of McDonalds, using today's channels - how would you do it?